New Year 1987 was a celebration of a successful eight month test of our "supermarket check stand customer donation program to help end hunger." It takes a while for a grassroots group of neophytes at marketing and advertising to get a concise message, but that is what was required if we were to make this work. "Simple, elegant, compelling" header cards for displays and colorful donation cards with the entire FOOD FOR ALL story on the back. We decided against the usual photos of a hungry child that characterized most appeals for donations. That is also why we spent two years in research and preparation for a public education program that involved conducting "hunger forums" all over southern California, followed by building a network of volunteers who would determine how local grants were given out and who would educate customers and employees about the hunger issue, and how giving a FOOD FOR ALL donation each time they bought groceries would help.
FOOD FOR ALL at Loma Linda Market
FOOD FOR ALL had been nursed through its infancy in Redlands during the latter part of '86 to twelve supermarkets by the end of the year, raising $18,000. During this time, in addition to traveling around in our 1970 VW bus, loaded with metal racks and our supply of donation cards, I made several stops at Lucky Stores Southern California headquarters in Buena Park, getting acquainted with just how supermarkets operated, in anticipation of Lucky taking on our program chain-wide. Dick Fredericksen, VP of Marketing, introduced me to Karen Sturgeon, Director of Advertising, who reported to Dick, and Nancy Chandler, Public Relations Director, who reported to Karen. Dick was a typical marketing executive, an idea man who was always coming up with great promotions for the company to execute. Karen was a "show me" person, and "by the way who is going to pay for this?" Nancy Chandler, ah yes, dear Nancy: She was someone who quietly went about her work getting things done, cajoling anyone who needed cajoling, figuring out ahead of time who needed to be convinced of the rightness of her cause, and going around whomever needed to be gone around. Nancy was responsible for Lucky's charitable giving. Nancy got FOOD FOR ALL. Nancy got me!
When the time was right, sometime in January of 1987 I believe it was, Nancy and I devised a plan for "rolling out" FOOD FOR ALL in all approximately 170 Lucky Stores in southern California, a district at a time, LA County first, then Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside,San Diego; and finally the outlying stores in Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Kern and Tulare. This would take some time. We only had one merchandiser to set up all these displays at the time: Me! and my trusty '70 VW bus with the middle seat removed.
The issue of how to get all the printed cards and display headers we needed was solved also by Nancy. Lucky's advertising department would print them. When Karen finally agreed to Nancy's request, she said: "Send them an invoice for the job." This was not to be the first time Nancy went to Karen and every time I would ask her "What shall we do about this invoice we got from your advertising department?" Nancy would give me a pat on the hand and smile and say "Let me worry about that."
One more minor hurdle we had to get over, I discovered, was "Operations." Don Pratt, Vice President of Operations, like Dick Fredericksen, reported to the President. We had to work with all the Lucky District Managers and Store Managers in order to actually install displays at their check stands. I overheard a remark by Don Pratt in the hallway of Lucky headquarters after a meeting with Nancy, Karen and Dick one day, Don speaking to one of his operations guys: "So what's tricky Dick up to now." Nancy couldn't help me with this one. Although everyone loved Nancy, we were going to have to win this one with a lot of hard work and bending over backwards to not make store managers' jobs any harder than they already were.
The time finally came for the "Lucky Launch." April 6, 1987. The plan was ready. The cards were printed. My VW bus was gassed up. The word was out to the District Managers to prepare their store managers for our coming. Nancy was ready with her PR plan. I forgot to mention a couple of other reasons Nancy was our champion. Nancy was a good friend of Stephanie Edwards, Lucky's TV spokesperson in those days. And Nancy's son Bill was Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley's chief of staff. One day as we were discussing the coming kickoff in Lucky Stores, after I had already put up displays in many of the LA stores, Nancy said: "Why don't I give Bill a call and see if he can help us?" It happened that the Mayor was in town and it was a good time for him to hold a press conference. The media had some questions they were dying to get to him about. So Bill scheduled a press conference with the primary purpose of announcing the introduction of FOOD FOR ALL in Los Angeles.
The day came, April 6. We showed up at City Hall and were surprised and delighted to find the press room packed with every newspaper and TV outlet in Los Angeles. Paul Gerrard, Bob Inadomi of JonSons Markets, and of course Dick Fredericksen of Lucky were there. Bill Chandler had done his job. Mayor Bradley did his job, which he was good at. He introduced Linda and me as founders of FOOD FOR ALL. We gave our little spiel, profusely thanking the mayor, Lucky, and the other supermarket owners, and then the press got their opportunity to ask the mayor about what they came for, which was not FOOD FOR ALL. Nevertheless, FOOD FOR ALL became the day's story on the 6 o'clock news on all channels.
Now all we had to do was get FOOD FOR ALL displays up in all 170 Lucky Stores, four more JonSons Markets, and a handful of independent grocery stores. Lucky was pushing us to move as fast as possible to take advantage of the chain-wide advertising and promotion they wanted to do.
We still had just one merchandiser--Me, and my '70 VW bus. And we still had no operating funds. Linda was still working full time at the University of Redlands. I was the only full time volunteer. We were still operating out of our town house living room. We needed HELP!